For the past 15 months, the Ole Miss Football program has been synonymous with NCAA investigation and lack of success on the field. Every major college football program goes through highs and lows. The most important thing for every program that is experiencing a low point is to cling to any sort of stability that it can. Whether it be a player, a coach, or a coaching philosophy, maintaining stability is paramount. While there is a dark cloud over the program in Oxford, coaches and players can cling to the stability that the quarterback position will provide this season.
This year, Ole Miss will see something its program has not seen in the past 13 seasons. A quarterback that Ole Miss recruited straight from high school is entering fall camp firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback. Every year after Eli Manning graduated in 2003, Ole Miss either started a transfer at QB or did not have a clear cut starter for the entire season. While some might consider this insignificant, it can make a huge difference for a program. Recruiting and developing high school quarterbacks can create a brand that will attract other high school quarterbacks to a program. It also saves a program from discipline or academic problems that often accompany transfer players. This season, Ole Miss will show that they can indeed recruit and develop high school quarterbacks
The obvious place to start with this position breakdown is sophomore, Shea Patterson. There is not much to be critical of with Patterson. He has the arm, the athleticism, and the leadership capabilities. The only things that some might point fingers at with him are his size (6-2, 203) and the fact that he is a quarterback that wears #20. In 2016, Patterson started the final three games of the season. He busted onto the scene with an upset win against Texas A&M at Kyle Field, going 25 of 42 for 338 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. However, Ole Miss dropped both games against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. While Patterson was not the main problem, there is definitely room for improvement. Patterson is also playing in the perfect offense for his skill set. Offensive coordinator, Phil Longo, is an air raid disciple and plans to throw it and throw it a lot. Expect Patterson to put up astonishing numbers this fall and possibly become a dark horse Heisman candidate.
While most fans around the country know of Patterson and what he brings to the table, depth is what makes a position group strong. Patterson’s backup this season will be junior college transfer Jordan Ta’amu. The native of Hawaii transfers in from the New Mexico Military Institute. When Ta’amu arrived on campus this spring, coaches got what they expected in the passing game. He was a guy who would show flashes but was not completely in sync with the playbook and his teammates. However, coaches were somewhat caught off guard with the running ability the transfer possesses. As Ta’amu gets more familiar with the playbook and his receivers, he could be a very reliable backup.
Redshirt sophomore Jason Pellerin also returns this season. While Pellerin will most likely be used more at the tight end position, he will still take reps at quarterback and could very well be used in the same way Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Liggins were used in the past. Using him at quarterback in the run game could provide a bigger, more physical runner at the position and also save Patterson from taking a few hits.
Ole Miss also added a high school quarterback in this recruiting class. Alex Faniel, a three star prospect, will most likely redshirt. While he will most likely not see the field this season, there is still alot to like about this player. Faniel has great size for a high school quarterback listed at 6-5 225. He has a strong arm and is a gifted runner but is a very raw talent and will take time to develop.
Ole Miss has the opportunity to have one of the strongest quarterback units in the Southeastern Conference. Shea Patterson has the opportunity to be one of the best players in College Football and one of the best that has ever played in Oxford. While it is always good to have depth at quarterback, it is safe to assume that Ole Miss coaches and fans hope that everyone other than Patterson only has to play in wildcat or clean up situations.